The inquiry into the professional conduct of Banting enthusiast Professor Tim Noakes will help to advance health care in South Africa, according to Claire Julsing-Strydom who is president of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA).
She laid a complaint last year with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA) as a matter of public interest after a tweet from Prof Noakes advising a mother to wean her baby off milk by following a low carbohydrate high fat (LCHF) diet.
The amended charge sheet addressed to Noakes states: "That you are guilty of unprofessional conduct or conduct which, when regard is had to your profession, in that during the period between January 2014 and February 2014 you acted in a manner that is not in accordance with the norms and standards of your profession in that you provided unconventional advice on breastfeeding babies on social networks (tweet/s)."
While doctors are allowed to give advice or share opinions online, they are not allowed to make a diagnosis or offer treatment online.
ADSA argues that the advice, via Twitter, is not considered to be in accordance with both international (WHO Guiding Principles for Complementary Feeding of the Breastfed Child) and national (South African Paediatric Food Based Dietary Guidelines) feeding guidelines for infant and young child nutrition.
It stated that giving one-on-one nutrition advice on social media to a patient who has not been assessed, as well as providing information outside of the scope of practice for which you are registered with the council is in contravention of the HPCSA ethical guidelines.
Julsing-Strydom said in a statement in June, ahead of the hearing held in Cape Town, that she was looking forward to the outcome of the inquiry, which was ultimately postponed to 23 November.
“I look forward to a resolution of this matter that will provide clarity on complementary feeding recommendations for infants and young children."
She added that it should also set a precedent on how social media should be used by health professionals.
"Clarity on these issues will help to advance health care in South Africa in the interest of the public. It should also clear any public and professional confusion on these issues,” she said.
Prof Noakes, who is a medical doctor and sports professor, has been researching infant nutrition for the past four years and is poised to release his second edition of The Real Meal Revolution, which is a guide to the Banting diet.
He faces being struck off the roll and would not be allowed to practice medicine should the HPCSA find him guilty of wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, the proceedings have been delayed over parties arguing whether the Professional Conduct Committee panel is properly comprised.
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Image: A baby girl eating from Shutterstock